ARGENTINA'S efforts to bypass the stated desire of Falkland Islanders to remain British are "doomed to failure", a Foreign Office minister declared as he prepared to visit the territory.

Hugo Swire said Britain was ready to hold talks on practical issues concerning the region, he indicated on the eve of his arrival, but only if the Falklands government was involved.

But he criticised ­"shameful" threats of jail terms and heavy fines for firms seeking to explore for oil off the coast of the South Atlantic islands.

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His remarks were given a hostile reception by Buenos Aires, which claims sovereignty over what it calls Las Malvinas, while the head of an Argentine task-force set up to deal with the issue accused him of "colonial high-handedness".

Last year, Falklanders voted 1513 to three in favour of remaining British and David Cameron has vowed to defend the decision.

Mr Swire said: "If the Argentina government believes that hostile rhetoric and threats against the livelihoods of the Falklands people will pressure the UK into negotiating the sovereignty of the Falklands - above the heads of the people whose home it is - then it is sorely mistaken.

"Argentina may continue to choose to ignore the views of the Falkland Islanders, but it is a policy doomed to failure."